Monday, February 23: Last night, I accidentally set my alarm for 5 P.M. for a sunrise boat ride on Inle Lake this morning. Luckily, my husband texted me from the USA at 5:35 and woke me up, otherwise I would have slept right through my appointed meeting. I rush to shower and gobble down breakfast and meet the guide just in time for my day-long boat ride on the lake.
Several fellow travelers had warned me that the early morning boat ride on the lake would be cold, so I bundle up in my blue Wal-Mart men’s jacket; I bought this jacket in China because I hadn’t brought any warm winter coats to Nanning and women’s clothes in China are too small for me. I get as comfortable as possible in a long-tail motorboat, commonly used for tours and fishing on Inle Lake. Luckily, the boat guide also has a blanket I can wrap around myself. It is freezing and windy out on the lake at this early morning hour, despite temperatures that rise up to 90 degrees in the daytime.
We leave before sunrise, so I’m able to see the sun coming up slowly over the horizon. The plan is to spend the whole day on the lake, visiting stilt-house villages, floating gardens, and Buddhist temples, as well as hopefully getting glimpses of the famous Intha people using their unique technique for leg rowing — in which one leg is wrapped around the paddle to drive the blade through the water in a snake-like motion.
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As we ply the waters, the golden sunlight washes over the waterways and stilt houses, giving the entire place an otherworldly aura.
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We come across several Inle Lake fishermen; when we approach them, the boat guide turns down the engine of the long-tail motorboat so as not to scare away the fisherman’s intended catch.
We head first to the five-day rotating market which is today at Khaung Daing Village, on the northwest end of the lake. At the market, locals bring in fresh fish and produce from the floating gardens.
In Inle Lake’s famous floating gardens, Intha farmers grow flowers, tomatoes, squash, and other fruit and vegetables on long wooden trellises supported on floating mats of vegetation. It’s hard to get a good view at lake level, but I’ve seen pictures of views from the hot air balloons that are fabulous. Sadly, the hot air balloon prices are exorbitant, over $500, so I pass on this trip. When I took a hot air balloon ride in Turkey, it was about 180 euros for one hour.
There are also Buddhist temples along the way.
After about an hour ride, we dock at this spot near Khaung Daing; I will walk from here to the market.
I walk inland to the market, not knowing what a colorful and lively experience it will turn out to be. 🙂